Week four theme: I Wish My Teacher Knew...
Denver teacher, Kyle Schwartz, asks her students a simple question: Fill in the rest of the sentence: "I wish my teacher knew..." The information she receives is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.
I have surveyed students and their parents at the beginning of every school year for as long as I can remember. The information that these surveys yield is so much more valuable than any previous report cards or teachers' comments. In a way, asking kids to share information about themselves with me allows them to get a fresh start. They can share exactly what they want me to know and what they think I should know. I appreciate my students' honesty. Their comments and what they choose to share is very helpful. For example, this year some of my students' have shared the following:
Interestingly, I ask the parents some very similar questions. They receive their surveys at Open House. I don't send them home earlier because I'm always afraid that the parents will rush to fill them out and to return them with the other back-to-school paperwork versus completing them with thoughtfulness and care. Even so, there are always a few who are trying to rapidly fill them out while I speak. When I see this, I ask that they wait and give themselves time to think. This isn't always well received. Many parents see these surveys as just one more thing they've got to get done. Sometimes I wonder if this information wouldn't be better gathered over the course of a telephone interview. When the surveys do return to school, I am sometimes disappointed by how seemingly little thought and effort went into their completion. It makes me sad when questions like, "is there anything I should know about your child's academic abilities or previous experiences in the classroom?" and "what are your goals for your child this year?" are left blank. I sometimes wonder why. Is it because the parent doesn't have time, doesn't know what to write, or doesn't care? I'm not really sure why some come back with lots of blanks. Some are extraordinarily thoughtful and do help me to hit the ground running. Any advantage when educating children is appreciated.
So, what do I wish parents and students knew? I wish they knew that: